Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch
There four different sets of seasons in my life.
The first set is the one I see outside. Winter, when the trees go dormant, lasting from December to January. Spring, a time of tree blossoms and new growth, from February to April. Summer with its intense growth, heat and decline during harvest, from May to October. Fall gets a little sliver in November.
The second set is the one with markings on the calendar.
Spring Equinox commencing spring March 20, Summer solstice on June 21, Autumn Equinox on September 22, and Winter Solstice December 21. These neatly scheduled three month seasons have little function in mine life beyond the debates with my husband over whether or not it is spring (…or fall or winter).
Marketing takes a different approach but its influence in most of the United States is undeniable.
In this, celebrations are flip-flopped, focusing on celebrating before the day occurs. The spring cleaning season starts in January with New Year’s Resolutions and storage containers. Valentine’s day has a celebration from mid-January to mid-February. Easter’s time is variable but comes quickly on the heels of Valentine’s day, to disappear the moment Easter Sunday has passed. Two seasons of patriotic flavor and outdoor parties last from Memorial Day to Labor Day when the pumpkin-spice season begins. Christmas overlaps with the lattes by beginning the day after Halloween. After-Christmas sales might have their own season, but it is a minor one. Holidays without a lot of marketing value are diminished while profitable ones grow in duration, to the point where some grow tired of Christmas before the time it comes. We can only handle so much stimulation.
The fourth set of seasons is the most meaningful to me. It is the religious calendar.
Advent, a time of hope and anticipation, lasting the four Sundays before Christmas; Christmas celebrated throughout the 12 Days of Christmas from December 25 to January 6. The time between Christmas filled with “Ordinary” time, with readings and rituals focused on the public ministry of Christ. Lent begins 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter with Ash Wednesday.
It is Lent now, but my catalogs tell me it is Easter. It was spring, and then a cold front began, but it still looks like spring.
Easter is on the first Sunday, following the first full moon, after the Spring Equinox and lasts 50 days. After that, we return to the simplicity of Ordinary Time until Advent.
They all overlap and sometimes contradict each other. I find in my life, exposure to advertisements and Starbucks cups emotionally inclines me to celebrate the season before I am quite ready. Frequent Target stops put certain holidays in the forefront of my children’s brains. I try to let the marketers do their thing, and I do mine and learn ways to operate in separate spheres.
My home is one area where this works through the use of seasonal décor. But, it is not all willpower. As much as I want it to be spring and as much as stores tell me to prepare for Easter, I cannot make those fruit stands open any sooner.
Some of the intentionality is needed to not be swayed by those using psychological techniques to move me to buy things I do not need for a celebration two months away. And some of the intentionality is letting go a little bit, to be willing to wait for it even though I am ready to roll. There is a unique pleasure in waiting for apple season or blueberry picking before enjoying those fruits.
The seasons, however, we observe them, offer variability to our lives through their colors, tastes and activities. With modern technology at our fingertips, it is easy to let go of the richness of keeping everything in its own time. It takes commitment to hold onto traditions, to go out and pick pumpkins even when no Jack-o-Lanterns will be carved, to buy fresh flowers for no reason except “just because.” It is one way to savor life. I hope you will join me in the practice.